A regional police study recommends Stewartstown do away with its police department and join the ranks of the Southern Regional Police Department.
The study, conducted on behalf of the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development, says a regional department including the borough would operate more efficiently and effectively for all member municipalities. The study cost the borough nothing.
Officials with the borough and the department said it's too early to determine if a merger would go through.
"We're still in the exploratory stages," said Kenton Kurtz, a councilman.
However, since the release of the study around the start of the year, representatives from the commission have met informally with borough officials to discuss the needs of the borough and to weigh the pros and cons of merging,
said James Boddington, chief of the regional department.
"Now we're in the process of talking back and forth. We're toying with it," Boddington said. "We're taking our time with this. Nothing is etched in stone."
Merger: Stewartstown could be the fourth borough to join Southern Regional as a full-time member. The department provides full-time service to Glen Rock, New Freedom and Shrewsbury boroughs, and part-time coverage to Loganville and Railroad.
The study says there would be major improvements to police service if the borough merged its police with the department.
There would 24-hours-a-day, 365 days-a-year police coverage that would be uniform and consistent throughout all the municipalities. Police service would be more efficient and effective by eliminating duplicate services, according to the study.
Gaining 24-hour coverage is a goal of Stewartstown, said Gordon Wisnom, borough council president. However, he's not sure if residents would be willing pay for the added service.
"I think people are happy with what they've got," he said. "I've heard no complaints about the system we have."
In order for the regional department to offer 24-hour coverage in Glen Rock, New Freedom, Shrewsbury and Stewartstown, it would need 14 full-time personnel, the study says.
Stewartstown has four full-time officers and Southern Regional has 10 full-time officers and a part-time officer, Boddington said.
Cost: Stewartstown and the department's three member municipalities would likely see savings if the borough joined the department, Boddington said.
Overhead costs, such as costs to operate a police station and a police car or two, would decrease under a single department, he said.
A proposed budget drawn up as part of the study says expenses for a Southern Regional Department that includes Stewartstown could stand at $1.7 million.
The department's 2013 budget is $1.5 million, and police costs account for $450,000 of Stewartstown's 2013 budget.
Savings could also be measured in the services provided. If service increases as anticipated while costs remain the same, that would be savings, Boddington said.
Talk of the possible merger has not yet been brought before the Stewartstown council.
However, Wisnom said it appears that some people are happy with the service they receive now.
"The general consensus is that we're better off with where we're at," he said.
Votes: In order for Stewartstown to join the department, a series of votes would have to be held.
The Stewartstown council would have to vote to join the department. All three current member municipalities -- Glen Rock, New Freedom and Shrewsbury -- would also have to approve the measure.
From there the police commission would have to approve letting Stewartstown join.
"I'm open to change if it's good for the community," said councilman Jerry Writer.
-- Reach Greg Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org.